Sweatin to the oldies

What a riveting piece of literature Zora Neal Hurston has written with her short story “Sweat”. The setting, the tempo of the story, the in depth focus on dialogue and the characters accents are all brilliant. From the first few paragraphs you are hooked and can’t stop reading. You can’t help but loathe Sykes, every bit of his character is deplorable. Delia is tortured by this brute even though she slaves away to give the both of them food and a worthwhile life. I have a few questions to pose to anyone out there willing to respond. Do you think Sykes put the snake in the basket simply to further scare Delia into leaving the house? Or was it to kill her to make room in the house he had no claim to, for he and his woman. Were you as happy as i was when Sykes finally had his run in with the snake? The last question is to those who have read Their Eyes Were Watching God by Hurston. Were you kind of dissapointed a bit like I was were her lack of creativity from story to story? It seems like thats the same crew on the store porch, the same owner (even is name Joe, like Joe Starks). There is even a character walking in front of the store with livestock, this time its delia and a horse rather than the town idiot and his mule.

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About Alex Mueller

Alex Mueller can be found running and cycling the streets and suburbs of Boston, taking long sojourns in rare book archives whenever he can. He teaches English at UMass Boston, serves as Book Review Editor for Arthuriana, and writes about digital pedagogy, open access publishing, and medieval literature.

10 thoughts on “Sweatin to the oldies

  1. I enjoyed it too! I think Sykes put the snake into the basket to kill her and make room for Bertha. He put the snake in her laundry basket knowing she would open it. Obviously he should know there runs a risk of her being bit. However he was pretty stupid so maybe not…I was happy when he got bit! He deserved it, he was a terrible husband and person in general. I'm in the middle of reading Their Eyes Were Watching God right now and I agree. Sweat was a good short story but she could've made a chapter of it in the book and changed names of characters it would have fit right in!

  2. I enjoyed this piece of literature too. I thought it was a nice break from the readings we have been doing and it was a fun light read. I thought that Sykes put the snake into the basket to both frighten and kill Delia. I think that he treated Delia horribly and deserved to be killed by his own tricks.

  3. As a former friend of Zoras, we had a falling out many years ago; I can say that not only is she a wonderful person but she is a wonderful writer.That being said not until you brought it up did I think about the similarities of this short story to hear novel. Although the themes of these two separate scenes are similar I think she was displaying a completely different emotion in the respective scenes. Perhaps this sort of sitting on the porch and community sharing thoughts was very important to her and her childhood, important enough to write about it at least twice if not more.

  4. I first thought that he wanted to scare her, but after reflecting on what happend at the end I definitely think that sykes put the snake there to kill her. this actually prove this old saying "Trap you've set for your mother-in-law will catch your mother instead". I love what happen at the end. I like the fact that she left him died and not do anything to save him.which is obvious I mean how could he expected her to save him knowing that she is afraid of the snake. Anyway sykes got what he deserved.

  5. I loved this story. There's something refreshin' 'bout a woman standing up to a disrespectful man like that. She could have gotten bit by that snake too! He probably would've liked that. I can relate to havin' to work on sundays. Black folks need to work hard to make a livin' and sometimes that means sweatin' extra to support ya family. However, I do believe in resting for our God. I just hated that man, Sykes. What kinda name is that anyway? Hittin' your wife is not how a real man acts. Now, I am a religious woman, but i would've let him die too, that bastard.

  6. Wow this story sure was fun to read. Sykes was for sure a bad, bad, bad man. A man should never treat a woman the way Sykes treated Delia. It's hard to say if Sykes wanted Delia dead or just to scare her. Because if he put the snake there to kill her, who would do the cleaning and the cooking? His trampy mistress couldn't boil water….

  7. This story was very exciting to read! It reminded me of my husband and how he pushed too far and finally got what he deserved in the end. Although I loved my husband, his ignorance for the truth is what cost him his future as Syke’s bitterness and demands to his wife Delia, cost him his life.

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